G8 Approves Plan to Increase Development Aid, Offer Help to Battle AIDS
The leaders of the world's major industrial nations yesterday said they would provide about $6 billion in foreign aid -- some of which would be used to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS -- to African countries that meet specific reform criteria, the Los Angeles Times reports (Orme, Los Angeles Times, 6/28). The plan, called the New Partnership for Africa's Development, was proposed at the G8 summit meeting near Calgary, Canada, by leaders from South Africa, Nigeria, Algeria and Senegal and was accepted by the G8 members, including the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States (BBC News, 6/28). The plan requires African countries that wish to receive aid to "demonstrate they are pursuing free market reforms and democracy." Starting in the next four years, the G8 will offer countries that meet such criteria "help in the battle against the AIDS epidemic," in addition to assistance to end civil wars and improve market access for African goods (Nickerson, Boston Globe, 6/28). The G8 leaders also agreed yesterday to a "modest program for debt forgiveness" for many African countries (Sanger, New York Times, 6/28). A number of lawmakers, AIDS groups and African groups have called on international lending institutions to forgive the debts of developing nations, stating that debt reduction would help the countries allocate more funding toward HIV/AIDS and other health initiatives (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/22).
Praise and Criticism
Canadian Prime Minister Chretien, who has "lobbied hard" for increased foreign aid for Africa, called yesterday's agreement a "landmark compact ... that will give countries willing to undertake reforms the support they need." He added that the action is a "departure" from past years when industrial countries were cutting their foreign aid budgets (Fournier, AP/Nando Times, 6/27). South African President Thabo Mbeki said that the plan was a "very, very good beginning" to helping African countries but added that the G8 countries needed to implement the decisions quickly (BBC News, 6/28). U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who also attended the summit, said, "If the Africans really stick to the commitments they have made ... to themselves, and to each other, and if the G8 (members) really carry out the action plan they are announcing today, this summit might come to be seen as a turning point in the history of Africa" (Los Angeles Times, 6/28). However, some international aid agencies criticized the agreement as not providing enough money to "deliver adequate health care" or fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic. "There's no new thinking," Catherine Little of Results Canada, said, adding, "[W]e are seeing the same old overwarmed policies and ideas repackaged and given a new name" (Russo, Canadian Press, 6/27). Oliver Buston, spokesperson for Oxfam, which runs development programs in several African nations, said, "The rich countries have agreed to an [action plan] that contains very little action and very little planning. The United States response in particular has been stunningly inadequate" (Boston Globe, 6/28).